What to Say When Your Kids Are Rude

boundaries conflict management emotional intelligence interpersonal relationships what to say Oct 04, 2020

We recently received some pushback about an article in which we advised parents to set boundaries around the way they let their children talk to them and behave toward them. We appreciate the feedback and the opportunity to clarify our advice …

In this article, we gave parents advice for addressing children who are rolling their eyes or generally being rude and snarky. We suggested that parents can say something like ...

“I don’t know if you realize this, but you have been rolling your eyes at me a lot. It doesn’t make me feel good, and you should know that it makes me want to stop spending time with you. What exactly do you need from me that would make our relationship work better for you?”

Some readers worried that implementing our advice could make their children feel abandoned or cause them to become “people pleasers.” 

Our response is this: We are inviting you to disengage from disrespectful behavior. We are not advocating for disengaging from your child emotionally. 

Our recommendation begins by pointing out that the child is choosing to engage in a behavior that does not feel good to us (eye rolling). We are inviting her to take responsibility for her behavior and choose a more effective means of communicating that will promote a better-feeling relationship between us. 

We then follow up with an invitation for the child to let us know what she needs from us, which conveys that we value the relationship and want it to feel good to her as well.

All children deserve to feel safe, secure, and loved by their parents.  

We believe that one way to ensure that children feel safe, secure, and loved is to have clear boundaries that make the parent/child relationship feel good to both parties. Included in those boundaries are the ones around the ways people speak to us and behave toward us. 

It doesn’t feel good when our children roll their eyes, speak in rude tones, or otherwise engage in passive aggressive behavior. Therefore, it is appropriate to ask them to express themselves directly using respectful words. It is appropriate to ask them to take responsibility for their behavior toward us and clarify what they need. 

If they do not comply, it is appropriate for us to disengage from their behavior. 

In any given relationship, there will be times when one party behaves in a way that is unacceptable to the other party. When someone is treating you in a way that feels disrespectful, you can, and should, take care of yourself and ask for what you need. If they will not comply, the healthy response is for you to disengage from their disrespectful behavior. 

Disengaging from harmful behavior is healthy not just for you, but also for the relationship. If you walk away before the other person says or does something they later regret, you minimize the damage. You also model self-respect.

When we walk away from our kids because they are consistently being disrespectful, we communicate: “I respect myself, you, and this relationship enough to walk away and allow us to both reset so that we can come back and be productive in finding a solution.” 

To be clear: Disengaging or walking away is not the end of the story (or the end of the relationship). Your children always get another chance. 

Relationships are two-way streets, in which everyone deserves to get their needs met and feel good. Teaching your children to advocate for their needs and communicate in ways that build good-feeling relationships is a skillset that will serve them for the rest of their lives. 

Read our blogs. Follow us on Instagram @macdermottmethod. Subscribe to our weekly self-care tips at www.macdermottmethod.com. And believe in your children’s strength and their ability to differentiate between you disliking their behavior, and you disliking them. 

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